The Crack of the Gun is the Same in Every Language

The crack of the gun is the same in every language.

The feeling of a damp uniform against your skin as you peel off your sweats is the same sensation regardless of the colors you’re wearing. The beads of sweat trickling down the small of your back, upon greeted with the air, a welcomed chill.
runner on track
The ceremony of switching from your trainers and into your spikes is synonymous with all runners.

The white arch of the waterfall start is the same line burned into the retinas of every racer.

So is the even brighter, completely straight line marking the finish.

The peal of the bell is heard the same despite whatever tongue a runner is accustomed. It is the penultimate lap, utterly clear amongst a haze of lactic acid and inner wills. It can awaken something fierce, something a racer didn’t know was there, a desire dulled in previous laps by the exhaustion.

The bell can awaken a sleeping beast.

The backstretch offers it a chance to stretch its legs coming off of a slight hibernation.
runner legs
The last bend extends hope…there is still track left…keep moving…there is still time to make up time, distance on your competitors…

The homestretch is but a mere 100 meters in distance. Yet to every runner it will invariably feel infinitely longer.

Legs like bricks it can feel like 100 miles to those being passed, coming up short on a day, defeat is blind to the difference between minutes and hundredths of a second.

Those same 100 meters may stretch to 100 miles to the racer running on legs firing like pistons. Though still riddled with the burning of lactic acid, that is can be over-powered by the taste of the line. There is a taste…a hunger…

in those last 100 meters stretched to eternity there is desire, hope and finally ecstasy.

The gun, the same in every language, starts it all.

1) What is something that is the same regardless of where a runner is from, what language they speak, or anything else?

2) Do you tend to be a kicker or an early pace-setter? Which style of racing usually works out to your favor?

3) Olympic countdown, baby, which events are you getting particularly excited for?

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Running Invades Facebook: You Just Crushed a 5.6 mi Run

“Randy just crushed a 5.6 mi run using Nike Plus.” If social media is taking over the world, then those workout updates are the Starbucks of this new world. Every time I pull up Facebook or Twitter I feel lazy for not running or sweating at that moment, regardless of how many miles I ran earlier in the day. Am I alone in feeling like this?

I’m kidding, I think it’s cool to see/read what my friends are up to running wise and I’m guilty as the next for ‘cheering them on’ on their runs. Plus, let’s face it I’m a big Nike fan anyways…so, yea. However, I DO think it’s high time they expand on the steadfast ‘crushed this run’, ‘just started a run’, etc. dialogue boxes and tired old icons. I’ve got a few suggestions…

nike plus comic

Click to Enlarge…but no stealing please…starving artists and all, contact me if you’d like a print/copy! :) Thanks!

So here’s to your training logs going viral…like me on Facebook or Twitter and I’ll certainly cheer you on when you’re crushing that next run of your’s. ;)
If you like comics you can see more of the Runner’s Strip series HERE!

1) Do you have Nike Plus or any similar type of workout app that connects to your FB, Twitter, etc. account?
Actually, in a nice twist of irony I don’t…and I’m even so old school I actually pen and paper my training log!

2) Do you like reading your friends’ updates when they’re on a run or after they completed one?

3) If you had a new dialogue blurb and matching icon for your last run, what would it be?

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The Olympic Torch: Lighting the fire under runners’ butts world-wide to get after their own goals

The 2012 Olympics have officially begun. The upcoming days will be filled with stories of inspiration, triumph, heart-breaking loss, sheer madness, when a hundredth of a tick on the stopwatch is all that matters. Then of course everything else in between.
run fast
No doubt, for anyone tuning into the Olympics it’s incredibly easy to get swept away in that sheer madness. It’s astounding how every four years you’ll see people who have barely ever busted a sweat in their lives tuning-in, enraptured in the competition like they’re hyping themselves up for a 20-miler the next day. ;)

As athletes though we really get into it. It’s sort of like when they light that torch they also light a fire under our butts to get after it on our own runs. It’s like an insta-boost of motivation and enthusiasm to the heart, no? You watch those runners lining up, the crack of the gun, and your quads starting itching to hit the track for your workout the next day.

Pause for a minute. Take the Tivo, DVR, or whatever and hit pause. Stare at the screen, whatever it is that REALLY gets you hyped, your own booster shot of adrenaline to the heart, and bookmark it in your brain. Because you know what, the Olympics will inevitably end, and the burning desire to burn up the track will start to wane just a bit…you’ll slip back into training and you’ll hit those moments where you’re feeling blah.

I’m not being a kill-joy here, just a realist. The point is the torch fire under your butt is riding epic proportions, it should be…those athletes out there should act as inspiration and awe to us all. They’re the ‘real deal’ out there.
fast women
But they’re human, and training is NOT easy and everyone has points where you’ve got to force it. Tough moments could be injuries, horrible races, workouts you’re really not looking forward to, and runs where pushing out the door is an effort. But when those athletes had those stretches they remembered that torch burning in their butt and got it done. Day in, day out. Consistently.

Your butt-torch can burn, lead you to your own goals, whatever they are…you just have to remember that on the days, or even weeks or months, that the fire starts to dim, think back to that Tivo/DVR moment and light your tush on fire. Stoke the flames and get ‘er done. :)

Enjoy the Olympics, yo.

1) What event are you most looking forward to in the Olympics?
Distance races…any and all. But of particular interest is the Women’s Marathon…go Kara and Shalane! :)

2) Which sports outside of running, or athletics, are you excited about seeing?

3) What is your Tivo/DVR butt-torch moment?? ;)

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The Neighborhood Runner: A freak, a weirdo, an anomaly…the extra in everyone else’s movie

To say I ran the scenic route of the neighborhood would be an understatement; warm-up, tempo and cool-down all run on a mile loop. Okay, it was a tad over one mile but by the end of it I think I could double as the neighborhood patrol for the night. I also almost hit the same darn trash can about six times…please people, can’t you place these things more conveniently for your kind runner friends?!


Tired, or just dizzy? ;)

Runners can tread that fine line of being unnoticed, we blend into the background, the extras in the movies of everyone else’s lives. Well, that is until some person’s idea of a compliment comes in the form of a hoot and holler out of their moving vehicle.

Question: To those guys yelling ‘Yea Baby!’ as they whiz by, what do they really hope to achieve? That if they yell it enough times eventually some runnerchick is going to suddenly start chasing their car in the hopes of landing a date?

Jokers and hollerers aside, to most people the neighborhood runners is usually thought of at ‘that person’ who runs by as they water their lawn.

The nut who is up running the streets as they nurse their coffee, rubbing out their eye crusties, and begrudgingly heading off to work.

The idiot who’s then back out for a double dose of insanity as they pull back into their garage cursing at their boss for making them work late.

A runner is the weirdo who leaves on Sunday morning off running when they grab the newspaper, then the same weirdo who is finally returning home, admittedly worse for wear, hours later as said neighbor is polishing off their BLT lunch.
runner legs
Their neighborhood runner is that person who gets a touch of scorn from Betty the Housewife for wearing those shorts that are just way too short, don’t they know that? Are they trying to make some kind of statement, like, “Oooh, look at me and my legs!” [Editor's note: No, actually we wear these shorts chaffage because if you're ever run in long shorts you probably have scars. That said, yea, we do look pretty good in them though. ;)]

The freak doing some 10 odd laps around the block. This is just your kindly neighborhood runner…happy to be an extra in your movie, thank you very much. :)

1) Do you live in a more suburban neighborhood or city? Do you know many of your neighbors, are any of them runners, and are you thought of as ‘that runner’ around the block?

2) Do you like doing loops for your runs? Does it depend on the kind of run you’re doing?
I actually don’t mind doing loops for hard workouts…I’ve had to do 10mile tempo’s on the track and by now my brain’s pretty good at ‘numbing’ out monotony. That said, loops are harder to do for easy/recovery runs.

3) Would you rather do a tempo or longer run on the track or on the treadmill?

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5 Running Flash-Factoids Part II: Spare your eye muscles and save your energy working your legs

Runners should save their energy for putting those legs to good use, not straining eye ball muscles. ;) If you liked last week’s 5 Flash-Factoids post then I hope you enjoy round two just as much!
runner sitting
* Remember Your Weaknesses: We all have our ‘weak’ spots, the injuries that seem to creep back time and time again. There are rehab and proactive TLC exercises/stretches you can do to keep those injuries at bay. Don’t get too cozy during periods where you’re injury free and slack on those things, stay current with your runner up-keep and care.

* Make Your Mileage Work For You: Knowing how much running your body can handle is key to your longevity; if you’re a runner with a lower threshold when it comes to total weekly mileage, that’s okay, but just make those miles you do run count. ‘Save’ those miles for hard workouts and your long runs and substitute cross-training for the easy run days. The miles you do run, be stingy with them and make them faster.

* Treadmills Aren’t a Weakness: Some die-hard runners have the line of thought that treadmills are for weenies. But treadmills are a training tool and they have their time and place; sometimes it’s safer to go indoors and in some cases you can get a better workout in too.
running track
* But Sometimes You Need the Elements: That said, races are run outside and at times you should condition yourself to brave the outdoors even when an indoor run would be more comfortable. This is especially true if the race you’re going to run will be really hot and humid, or cold and windy…you want to prepare your body for running in those kinds of conditions and still being able to perform. Keep in mind you may have to adjust times and run for effort.

* Wear the Right Gear: If you’re going out for a run in super hot and humid conditions and you’re rocking a cotton tee, be prepared to be chugging home with about 5 extra pounds of shirt sweat. Suit up in the right gear for the elements; when it’s cold layers are your friend not just to keep warm but for the safety of your muscles too. To avoid chaffing and shirt sweat poundage, running shirts and clothes made from technical materials are your friends…hey, speaking of tech tees there is an AWESOME one I’ve got that you should be outfitting yourself with. ;)

1) Have you learned your body’s mileage threshold? How do you make that mileage work for you?

2) What is your chronic ‘squeaky wheel’ or weak point in your body?
My darn hamstrings and left foot at the moment.

3) Favorite kind of running shorts?
Either the Tempo shorts or ones with a split.

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Love Your Running Competition and Thrive in Their Presence

When a runner steps to the line they are never alone. The racers next to you all have goals of their own; some of the goals may be the same as your own…you both will be fighting for that same finishing place. Some of those racers may be your own teammates, your friends, your training partners.

But in the end, when the gun goes off you all become one and the same: racers. All other titles momentarily erased.

fast runners

Of course if you know some of those racers you may devise a race plan where you work together for some portion of the race, helping each of you through the early stages and setting you BOTH up for a better finish. There can be a team component to track, more-so in cross-country, but there inevitable comes a certain point in the race where anyone running next to you is nothing but your competition.

Embrace your competition because they are what will make you faster, and one of the strongest tools you have to utilize in the quest for your best. They will push you to your limits…or rather they will push you to the point where you will have to decide whether you are willing to go to those limits.

This opportunity isn’t solely in races, and with the London Olympics fast approaching, there are some really great articles highlighting Shalane Flanagan and Kara Goucher not just as two of the USA’s top chances for medaling in the Olympic Marathon, but also the fact that they are indeed training partners.
kara goucher shalane flanagan
Both are excellent reads, and some things you can gather from both are:

* Train For Your Best: Both women have run nearly every workout together; similar to a race situation when you workout with someone who can push you, both of you end up the winners.

* Race Day Confidence: Of course when the gun goes off, both women rightfully acknowledge friendships and training partner labels are completely taken off the table. In the article featuring Goucher they touch on what it means to have Flanagan around her the longer the race drags on. On the one hand, because they have trained together both can get a bit of a confidence boost having the other around with the thinking, “Look, if Shalane/Kara is still here and handling this and we’ve trained together, I KNOW I belong here and can handle it.” The whole, “This hurts, but she’s doing it, so can I” line of thought.

* In The End You’re Running For One: On the flip side, there is the point where you need to drop your competition. There’s nothing more to be said on that one except that rather than ever fear them, be thankful for them…embrace your competition and allow yourself to thrive under their presence.

Some people get more nervous knowing faster people are in the race, so here’s a look back on a post I did about race day nerves, how to manage them and actually use them to your advantage.

1) How do you handle your competition, do you tend to get more nervous if you know faster people are in the same race?

2) For training, do you seek out people to run with who you know are at your same pace or a little faster?

3) Do you enjoy a race more if you know some of the other racers or if you have teammates?
I know I did…always fun to have company on the warm-up and cool-down too! :)

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dont’ fear compeition

It’s a Public Service Announcement

For a richer, fuller life…RUN.
running psa
I happened upon this old school public service announcement:
reading psaSource
While I do love to read, I think I love running more. You should too. ;)
Just sent out some more ‘Get Chicking’ shirts! Be sure to get yours. :) The amazing Julia is currently running the Ragnar Relays in hers…LOVE IT!!

1) For a richer, fuller life…[fill in the blank]

2) Were you much of a reader growing up? Were you much of a runner/sports person growing up?

3) Name one thing running brings to your life outside of anything physical.
Sanity. [well, it makes me at least more sane. :)]

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The Running Detective: Figuring out what works for you can feel like solving a mystery

Sometimes running forces you into the role of Sherlock Holmes. You may feel like you’ve been plunked down into any number of these must-read, classic runner tales of sleuth…

missing legs

Harrier Holmes and the Mismatched Taper

When Watson’s GI Distress Wrecked Havoc

The Quest for the Missing Pair of Legs

The Pace That Shouldn’t Have Felt That Hard

The Reverse Splits Crawl Through He##’s Gates

The Last Race…or So He Thought

Running and training is a fickle little beast, just when you think you’ve figured something out it sends you for a loop. There is always more to be learned and also getting to know how that knowledge applies to YOUR own body is another part of the journey.

In running you are forced to become more attuned to your body, learn the ways it sends you signals…then you must choose how to interpret them and decide how to listen. We all go the trial by fire learning method plenty of times, but over the years hopefully we wise up and don’t repeat the same mistakes over and over again. Because if you get stuck in that same Sherlock story it can get rather boring, redundant and maddening. ;)

The thing tough, is that there are coaches, sports physiologists, training partners, competitors and the blokes who write about running to accompany on your quest for the answers to all of those ‘mysteries.’ To help keep you on track to PR’s, epic races, the next workout, next run…and to make sure you have some laughs along the way too.
keep running
Sometimes those running detective novels may feel dark (The Colossal Injury of Blistering Hall) at points, but you get to some pretty awesome passages too. For our little running mysteries I’d also like to write in that most of them end as happily ever afters. Or at least they end as cliff-hangers so that you are FORCED to read onto the next one…to keep going…

And don’t ever forget some of our favorite Sherlock Runner Sleuth books:

The Man Holding the Stop-Watch (spoiler alert it’s reading a PR)

The Mysterious Kick That Came From Nowhere

A Run So Perfect You Can’t Fathom it’s Your Legs Doing the Running

For that last one, trust me, when you’re in the middle of that one you know it and there is no WAY you can put that book down. ;)

1) Do you have a Sherlock Runner Sleuth book to add?

2) What are some mysterious you’ve ‘solved’ for yourself? (ie: best pre-race day warm-up, best fueling, GI Issue remedies, etc.)

3) Is there a book you are in the middle of ‘solving’ right now?

4) Which was the last book you ‘finished’ and how did it end? Did you wind up discovering the answer or was it a cliff-hanger?

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Runners Going Gluten Free: Could making the switch work for you?

Running on a gluten free diet may seem like more work than structuring your training regime. Though there are no shortage of runners ditching the gluten and raving that they are far better for it. Admittedly some were ‘forced’ into because they have an intolerance, celiac disease, but there are others that willingly did a diet overhaul.

running pancakes

Are those pancakes gluten-free?? ;)

I’m not going to lie, I’ve got friends who are gluten free (But being that ‘going gluten’ is basically trending on Twitter who doesn’t have friends who are eating this way?!) and I don’t envy the way they have to interrogate the kitchen staff and be extremely cautious when reading food labels. I honestly have no worries when it comes to the restaurant thing, it’s not that I mind it at all, I totally understand how important their questions are. To be frank, I think it just comes down to me being too ‘lazy’ to put in the work to get gluten-free savvy.

But I’m curious, just as many others, and had heard the benefits of going gluten-free for possibly reducing the amount of inflammation in your body and solving various GI problems. In case you missed it I wrote an article all about this over at Competitor: ‘Gluten Free = Inflammation Free?’. I also included a three day gluten-free sample menu.

The truth is, it’s not THAT incredibly complex, trust me 400 meter repeats are a far tougher pill to swallow. I’d say the hardest part would be the initial learning curve and getting used to what you ‘can’ and ‘can’t’ eat, remembering to double check labels and mostly getting used to how to travel and eat out without gluten sneaking in there.
running fast
I tapped into some AWESOME sources for this one, Krista Austin Ph.D and Amy Yoder Begley who has become sort of the poster runnerchick for going gluten-free. After you read the article, I’ll add a few more thoughts and tips that didn’t make it but I found interesting and worth mentioning.

* Amy’s Top Restaurant Picks: “For really important races, I try to go to places with a GF menu like PF Changes, Outback, etc. However, you need to make sure they have gluten-free prep not just gluten-free food. Things can’t be fried in the same oil as breaded items or grilled in the surface as bread. Cross-contamination is a word to know and ask questions till you feel comfortable, even if it takes 45 minutes,” Amy Yoder Begley explains that cross-contamination is probably the biggest hurdle when dining out.

* Kitchen Overhaul: The same issue applies to your own home kitchen and cooking habits, “To begin with GF eating you need to get rid of the old toaster, really clean down the grill or get new grill plates, and buy new cutting boards. I would also clean out the cupboards, wipe down all surfaces and read all ingredient labels until you know for sure what is in each item,” Yoder Begley explains. I actually roomed with Amy for a while and while her husband does not eat gluten free they are extremely well practiced in making sure none of his gluten products even come near Amy’s plate or food.

* Inflammation and Gluten: Austin explains that while gluten may cause extra inflammation, the biggest reason an athlete’s inflammation may go down as a result of a gluten-free diet is because you’ll be cutting out most of the overly-processed junk, “Usually if you do a gluten-free nutrition plan right, you end up replacing these [processed foods]…as a result, it automatically reduces the high percentage of unneeded trans fatty acids (most hydrogenated) and bleached, nutrient-less flour is removed from the diet. The extra chemically produced fats (think hydrogenated) are what fuel inflammation in the body, so if we eliminate them we will reduce inflammation. Bottom line: we eat cleaner more naturally found foods and thus inflammation goes down.”

* No Diet is a Magic Bullet: That said, I’ve talked a lot about how jumping into a certain style of eating, or overly-cleaning it up isn’t always the ‘best’ thing for your running or your sanity, and it really comes down to WHY you’re switching to a new style of eating. There is something to be said for both moderation and the old adage, ‘if the engine is hot, it’ll burn.’ Austin is frank about this, “However, as a side note, I know many an Olympic athletes, etc in the sport of running that eat horribly and still get the job done, (Although yet to medal so maybe this is why?) …in fact they are the guys on top! Eeeeek…so at the end of the day, the message is this: it’s how you train that matters most…however, if your fuel intake is too low or not adequate in some way, just know training is suffering and we are not optimizing performance.”

I think I’ll end or reiterating that fact: “It’s HOW you train that matters most.”
Check out Amy’s excellent resource for eating gluten-free at her site, Gluten Free Olympian:

Check out more from Krista Austin at her own site:

1) Do you eat gluten free? Have you tried a gluten free diet for any sum of time and what was your experience?

2) What have you heard about eating gluten free? Benefits, drawbacks, etc.

3) What’s your stance on your running diet, how do you approach the fueling issue?
I make sure to get in enough calories, so that means eating things I want and aren’t exactly the ‘healthiest’…but at the same time I think of the ‘junk’ as ‘bonus’ after I’ve made sure to get in the good stuff and enough proteins and such. :P

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Running in the ‘Wrong’ Kind of Tired: Diagnosing and solving a constant state of fatigue

“There is no tired in distance running,” Alberto Salazar said this. The completely OCD runner in me loves this quote because it succinctly sums things up pretty well, namely that being tired is more just a given, it comes with the territory.
tired runner
That said, there are LEVELS of tiredness. The longer that you’re a runner the better you are able to distinguish the levels of fatigue. There is the sort of tired you face the day after a hard workout that kicked your butt…you sort of ‘dread’ that easy run because you know it will not be easy in any sense of the word. But you work through that tiredness and just suck it up.

There is the feeling of tired during a hard workout, as the gruel-fest drags on you’re not really tired so much as suffering. That’s another thing you just accept, it’s part of the game.

Then there are the levels of tired that are different, wrong, you know it’s wrong because it’s not tired so much as bone-marrow deep fatigue. Where you’re struggling from the first steps, and you know something is off. This kind of fatigue isn’t ‘normal’ and the longer you live in this state you start to hope something is wrong because at least then you can pinpoint why your running, and your body, seems to be going AWOL on you. At least if there is a ‘problem’ you can look for an answer.

Digging for that answer is tricky because it can be one of many factors, or many of the many factors.
What makes it more difficult is that because us distance runners are completely used to feeling tired, figuring out that you’re running in the ‘wrong level’ of tired can take some time and by then your problem, and your mental sanity, could be getting worse for the wear.

Common ‘wrong levels’ of fatigue sources:

* Medical: I’m going to put this one straight up first because it’s usually the ‘easiest’ thing to pinpoint or at least get the ball rolling. Get a blood panel done and check for some common ailments.
- Low iron: I did a whole post on that one HERE. Bottom line, make sure the doctor reading your tests is one used to working with athletes. A runner may fall in the ‘normal range’ for iron levels but that’s for the sofa surfing normal person…a runner will want to fall on the higher end of that range. I also take a supplement in addition to any food I eat…better safe than sorry.
- Hypo-thyroid: I had/have this fun one too and trust me it is NOT a fun road to travel. You talk about tired; again seek out a professional who knows runners. Your Free T and T-4 levels NEED to be more up to code than the normal sofa person.

* Over-trained: This one is quite common; with us type-A’s we tend to go with the motto ‘more is better, even more is even better.’ But that’s not always true, and doing needless ‘more’ for the sake of doing more is a fast way to dig yourself into an over-trained hole. It takes a while to dig, but if your hard workouts and race times start to nose-dive this is one of the first places to look. Look over your training log, taper back the volume and intensity for a day or two and if things start to improve you’ve got your answer. I did an article on this for Running Times you can read HERE.

track runner

Tired from exertion is one thing…but sometimes you KNOW something is off.

* Under-fueled: I’ll cut to the chase, weight and runners, food and runners is a land-mine of a topic. We know being lean is an unavoidable fact when tied to performance, but taken too far and your performance will also nose-dive. Running also burns a heck of a lot of fuel and if you’re training volume is way outpacing your intake you’ll feel the similar symptoms of over-training. Actually, sometimes just bumping up your caloric intake rather than cutting back the training at all can sometimes do the trick.

* Mental burn-out: There is the physically over-trained state and the mentally tapped out state I’ll call burn-out. Running is incredibly mental and ‘hyping yourself up’ into the hard workout and all-out race scenarios takes a lot of mental energy. You use too much of that mental energy and you can be left mentally zapped by the end of the season. Again, refer to my Running Times article for more on this but also remember that if you come to literally dread your runs you may be treading into mental burn-out land. Maybe you’re getting too obsessed with splits and times and putting too much pressure (read more on that HERE) and chucking the watch for some workouts or your easy days can help with that. Also make sure to get back to WHY you started running and keeping it fun.

* Training adjustment phase: I’ll quickly address this, if you’re new to a particular coach, running group or program it’s very common for the adjustment phase to wipe you. Even if the volume is the same, a different training philosophy (maybe you’re doing a lot more core/weight work) means different kinds of workouts. Be patient, sometimes you’ll have to take a few steps back to, in the long term, make big leaps forward.

* Not recovering: This actually is a ‘baby-category’ of the over-training but I’ll re-emphasize it here. If you’re not taking your easy days EASY then you’re blur all the lines between hard and easy days and then when you want to HIT those hard days you won’t be able to.

Pinpointing 1) that you’re in the ‘wrong level’ of tiredness is the first battle 2) finding a way to turn that feeling around so you can get back to the ‘normal’ constant tiredness that comes with running is the second. It may take time, but be patient, because once you’re back on track you’ll be running much better and your entire outlook on your running will too. You should never hate your running…it’s too good to hate. ;)

1) Have you ever experienced any of these ‘wrong levels’ of fatigue?
PAH-LEEEZ…sometimes I feel like I’ve written the book on them. ;) There’s that sarcastic humor of mine.

2) Is there a few I missed, do you have any to add to the list?

3) Was there ever a time you hated your running?
I will say I never hated my running and I thank the running gods for that, many people who get stuck in a ‘wrong level’ type of situation can end up sucking the passion from their sport. I never lost that…I did however hate feeling super-tired, flash to hypo-thyroid days.

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